Banff hoteliers and landlords are voicing concerns over the Town of Banff’s cash-in-lieu parking policy – and argue the municipality needs to allow for more creative solutions.
They question whether changes to cash-in-lieu fees in the commercial downtown land use district are a mere cash grab and recommend against any increases to cash-in-lieu fees.
Businesses have long argued the parking policy has proven to be a barrier to investment, saying local mom and pop businesses inevitably are the ones that cannot afford the fees.
“The policy is too restrictive,” said Justin Burwash, director of operations and finance for Banff Caribou Properties.
“As time goes on and we move forward, there are different things can come up.”
Businesses raised several concerns at a public hearing on proposed changes to Banff’s Land Use Bylaw on May 7. The hearing also sought to get feedback on updated to the housing and parking policies.
Council is expected to discuss and debate the policy at its next meeting Monday (May 28).
Required parking for commercial development has been a requirement since Banff’s incorporation as an Alberta municipality, but it’s long been argued new ventures can be stifled by what is viewed as prohibitive parking costs.
New development must provide appropriate levels of parking to serve that additional development, but as an alternative to providing required parking spaces, cash-in-lieu may be paid at a rate of $21,000 per required parking stall.
Under the policy, cash-in-lieu parking would be applicable primarily in the commercial downtown district, but will be considered on a case-by-case basis in other land use districts.
New direction in the policy would see parking cash-in-lieu directed to the parking reserve, capital projects for walking and cycling infrastructure and public transit, subject to funds being spent on transit within Banff.
The policy also proposes a maximum of 10 per cent of required parking in the commercial downtown be constructed, while the remainder must be paid as cash-in-lieu.
Town administrators say this provision will not apply to hotels in the CD district, except for accessory uses like restaurants and bars that are located within a hotel.
“Hotels are one of the few uses which would be able to consolidate enough land to make a private parkade workable, and have particular customer requirements with respect to guest arrival,” said senior planner Darren Enns.
Enns said administration believes one of the core goals of the LUB’s parking requirement is to ensure visitors have access to parking, and arguably to place a premium on parking stalls which are available to visitors.
But, he said, onsite parking in the downtown core rarely achieves this goal. For example, several downtown buildings have all provided onsite parking, with none of the stalls available to the public.
For example, Town Hall provided 20 stalls with only one publicly available, Saitoh Furs provided eight stalls and none are publicly available, Bison Courtyard provided 55 stalls and none are publicly available – and there are more examples.
“Combined, these would have the impact of a Bear Street parkade-sized facility targeted at our visitors, whereas now these stalls serve only residents and employees, who, unlike our visitors, have the option not to drive,” said Enns.
“Administration has proposed limiting the amount of (ineffectual) parking provided onsite, in an effort to drive cash-in-lieu towards a coordinated approach to solving our parking challenges.”
However, a group of landlords says the parking cash-in-lieu policy should be completely rewritten. The group includes Banff Caribou Properties, Natures Coin Group, Brewster, OM Treutler Holdings, Glacier Holdings, Cascade Plaza, Lanmar Enterprises, Unlimited, among others.
They questioned whether this was a fee policy driving land use goals or a convenient method for the municipality to raise money for Roam and the town’s parking reserves.
“If a business or commercial leaseholder in the CD district can create parking stalls, including underground stalls, then they should be allowed to do so,” they said in a letter to council.
“We recognized that parking is difficult to create in the CD district, but why eliminate the option?”
The landlords also said the Town of Banff looked at creative solutions to parking, such as Roam and bicycle use, rather than building a new downtown parkade.
“However, the parking policy discourages businesses from creative solutions by saying their sole option for addressing required parking is a “pay-cash-to-us-only” solution,” they said.